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Tibet: Environment and Development Issues

[Environment and Development Desk; Department of Information and International Relations; Central Tibetan Administration; Dharamsala, INDIA. April 26, 2000.]


The most serious threat to the survival of Tibet's culture and national identity is presently China's population transfer programme, which is reducing the Tibetans into an insignificant minority in their own land at an alarming rate.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, 1995.

IN 1997, film maker Tenzing Sonam travelled to the northeastern corner of Amdo, one of the three traditional regions of Tibet, to visit the birthplace of his father which was also close to the home of the present Dalai Lama. The account of this very personal journey was recorded in the documentary A Stranger in my Native Land in which the Indian-born narrator discovers the reality of Tibet's ć and therefore his ć loss:

...It is ironic. In India my father devoted his life to the cause of Tibetan independence. I was brought up with a strong sense of my Tibetan roots. Yet it is here in my father's home I discover that our very identity is under threat...for more than two centuries Chinese settlers and Asian Muslims have outnumbered all Tibetans in this areaŠ My father's extended family is one of only three Tibetan families in this village of nearly a hundred households. Even when my father was a child the Tibetans there had already lost their language. But they still maintained a distinct Tibetan identity, especially in their dress. Now there is no sign of even that...I am taken by surprise to find the graves of my grandparents, since Tibetans usually cremate their dead and offer their remains to vultures. But the Tibetans here have adopted the Chinese custom of ancestor worship. I feel a welter of contradictory emotions. I am moved by this family ritual which reaffirms my own consciousness. And yet I am also saddened because it confirms the decline of Tibetan culture here in my father's native region.

Since 1950 there has been an undeniably large influx of Chinese into Tibet. This has resulted from a number of factors:

  • The need for military forces and assorted security personnel;
  • Government policy and programmes to transfer Chinese, particularly cadres and professionals, to the 'Tibet Autonomous Region' ('TAR') and other Tibetan regions;
  • Government encouragement of voluntary migration;
  • Work units bringing Chinese labourers to Tibet for construction projects;
  • The market-driven migration of individual Chinese entrepreneurs and craftsmen.

Towns such as Gormo (Golmud) in Amdo have been created which are predominantly populated by Chinese (96 per cent). Tibetan urban centres have been sinocized and in Eastern Tibet's Kham province and in Central Tibet lands have been appropriated for agriculture. Where Chinese have settled they dominate commerce and are at the centre of development strategies. Education facilities increasingly support the urbanised Chinese population to the disadvantage of Tibetans. In 1994 the Central Committee of the Communist Party's Third Work Forum on Tibet outlined official Chinese policies on population transfer, endorsing and encouraging the accelerated movement of Chinese to the 'TAR'.


"Population transfer" is defined by the UN Commission on Human Rights' Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities as "the movement of people as a consequence of political and or economic processes in which the State government or State authorised agencies participate (ICJ 1997).

The definition is further explained:

The term "transfer" implies purpose in the act of moving a populationŠThe State's role may be active or passive, but nonetheless contributes to the systematic, coercive and deliberate nature of the movement of population into or out of an areaŠ the State's role may involve financial subsidies, planning, public information or other judicial action, and even the administration of justice (UNDP 1994).

Population transfer has been conducted with the effect or purpose of altering the demographic composition of a territory in accordance with policy objectives or prevailing ideology, particularly when that ideology or policy asserts the dominance of a certain group over another.

Population transfer policies often single out specific ethnic, racial or religious groups in clear violation of the anti-discrimination principles laid down in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, to which the People's Republic of China (PRC) is a party. Population transfer can lead to discrimination against the original inhabitants in the spheres of housing, employment, education, health care, and the use of native languages and national customs.

An influx of settlers into inhabited territory can present grave economic consequences for the original inhabitants. The imposition of an alien economic structure often disrupts original trading patterns upon which local inhabitants depend. New goods are introduced to meet the needs of settlers, with new business opportunities structured to favour the new arrival.

Poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and increased mortality rates can be the direct results of population transfer programmes. In this way, peoples may be systematically reduced to a powerless minority who are treated as second-class citizens in their own country and denied opportunities to actively participate in social and political processes. Famine, flooding and desertification can result from the introduction of inappropriate crops and harvesting methods, and the environmental burdens placed on natural resources by an increase in population.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 states that the transfer of civilians by an occupying power into territory it occupies is a violation of international law. However, it is a practice which many occupying powers, colonial administrators and totalitarian rulers have used and still use to break resistance to their rule and consolidate control over a particular territory.


Beijing partly claims official legitimacy for colonising Tibet from its professed "advanced stage of civilisation". This rhetoric resembles the language of the "sacred trust" principle used in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations:

The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility.

The PRC claims to "assist" Tibet, politically, economically and culturally, to overcome its "backwardness". Chinese literature tends to present China's policies in Tibet as self-sacrificing efforts to help a poor and backward area and protect it from "western imperialism".

On 25 July 1959 the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) published The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law. The "preliminary" report examined the PRC's violations of the 17-Point Agreement (signed between China and Tibet in 1951, after China invaded Tibet) violations of human rights, the question of genocide and Tibet's legal status. It concluded that:

Evidence points to a prima facie case of a systematic intentionŠto destroy in whole or in part the Tibetans as a separate nation and the Buddhist religion in Tibet.

The Secretary-General of the ICJ stated that the report made it clear that:

From the present report there emergesŠa prima facie case of the worst type of imperialism and colonialism, coming precisely from the very people who claim to fight against it.


In 1962, the 10th Panchen Lama presented Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai with a 120-page report on Tibet known as "The 70,000 Character Petition" which was a detailed account of the tragedy facing Tibet. The secret report, which only came to light in 1997, written in 1962 (four years before the start of the Cultural Revolution), argues that China's policies were leading to the eradication of religion, the decline of Tibetan culture and potentially to the elimination of Tibetans as a distinct nationality (TIN 1997c).

A 1997 report entitled China's Tibet: The World's Largest Remaining Colony prepared by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO 1997) concludes that Tibet is a de facto colony of the PRC. It asserts that the present Chinese rule over Tibet was established in the way most colonial powers establish control: by military action and a treaty (the 17 Point Agreement of 1951) that bears all the characteristics of an "unequal treaty".

This is supported by the International Commission of Jurists' Legal Enquiry Committee on Tibet who in 1959 concluded that prior to the 1950 Chinese invasion Tibet had achieved de facto independence and all the requirements of de jure independence:

Tibet demonstrated from 1913 to 1950 the conditions of statehood as generally accepted under international law. In 1950 there was a people and a territory, and a government which functioned in that territory, conducting its own domestic affairs free from any outside authority. From 1913-1950 foreign relations of Tibet were conducted exclusively by the Government of Tibet and countries with whom Tibet had foreign relations are shown by official documents to have treated Tibet in practice as an independent state (ICJ 1959).

The UNPO report adds that the administration of Tibet now has all the characteristics of a colonial regime. The Tibetan people's participation in government is little more than a "rubberstamp" function, with all real decision-making and executive authority exercised by the Chinese, particularly through the Communist Party and the army. The most senior Tibetans in the Chinese government are former aristocrats who have been co-opted, as was the case in European-owned colonies. The report further concludes that despite trying to give a semblance of autonomy, China mostly governs Tibet by direct, as opposed to indirect, rule.

Colonial rule superimposes national borders. The current division of Tibet into the 'TAR' and the 'Tibet Autonomous Prefectures/Counties' runs counter to the Tibetan concept of Tibet as consisting of one unified territory divided into three provinces of Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang.

The Chinese government presents and explains its policies in terms of a "civilising mission". Intercultural exchange is asymmetrical: the Chinese residents in Tibet adopt hardly any aspects of Tibetan culture, while the influence of Chinese culture on Tibetans, in particular those living in urban areas, is strong.

Economic development is planned and imposed by the colonial power and often benefits the metropolitan state at the expense of the satellite region. Resources located in the colony are transferred to, or used for the benefit of, the metropolitan state and for further processing and marketing by that state. China exhibits all these traits in Tibet where natural resources are exported to China or used for industrial and construction sites which primarily benefit Chinese settler communities. Chinese "development" projects in Tibet are imposed and Tibetans have little or no say in the planning and implementation of these projects.

Colonial authority is maintained by eliminating dissent within colonised populations. Tibetan protest against Chinese rule, or any aspects of it, in Tibet is systematically silenced. In order to maintain control the Chinese government maintains a large and permanent military presence in Tibet. The maintenance of authority is often strengthened by a policy of population transfer. There is a clear pattern of continuous and intensifying Chinese settlement in Tibet.


Although the Chinese claimed to be liberating the Tibetans from the oppression of "feudal serfdom" and introducing a "new era of prosperity", there were strong economic, strategic and demographic reasons for the occupation. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama believes that originally there were three reasons why China coveted Tibet. With control of Tibet, the Chinese would:

  • Gain access to a variety of untapped natural resources
  • Secure their southwestern borders
  • Secure huge new areas of sparsely populated land in which to settle the growing Chinese population (Lama 1962).

This is supported by a statement made in 1960 by Premier Zhou Enlai who in the aftermath of the invasion said :

Chinese are greater in number and more developed in economy and culture but in the regions they inhabit there is not much arable land left and underground resources are not as abundant as in the regions inhabited by fraternal nationalities (Beijing Review 1980).

More recently, Ragdi, chairman of the Standing Committee of the 'TAR Party Congress', admitted in a speech reported by Tibet Daily on 29 July 1998 that the wider aim of the intensified anti-Dalai Lama campaign was to protect the "unity and security" of the whole of China.

For the Beijing leadership, Tibet is the "southwestern gate of China" and its stability is essential for defence and strategic purposes. Tibet holds a crucial status in the overall order of China's political, economic and cultural development, being one of China's key defence outposts and strategic points, with the Himalayas being a natural defence.

So speeding up the economic and social development of the Tibetan region, to preserve its united and stable order, is of key significance to national security.

Even more important to China's leaders is the expectation that the Chinese will provide a powerful model of modern thinking and behaviour which Tibetans will perceive and eventually emulate. Based on the history of other minority areas, Beijing's leaders are partially banking on a process of acculturation in which the more "advanced" Chinese will open Tibetans up to new ideas and attitudes and create a new "modern" Tibetan in the process who will not be so easily influenced by religion.

While Beijing realises that its open-door policy will likely create much pain and inhumanity to Tibetans in the short-run, it feels that this is the price which must be paid for modernising Tibetan society. The Beijing administration believes that in the long run its policies will triumph.


The highest ruling body in China, the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CCCP), in 1994 officially and publicly lent its support to a policy of facilitating Chinese migration to Tibet as part of an economic development programme to counter the region's "separatist" movement. While a variety of government agents have in the past provided incentives for Chinese to work in Tibet, this was Beijing's first admission of such policies at a national level. More significantly, the 1994 Third Work Forum on Tibet provided the first public confirmation of the assimilation of Tibet into the Chinese economic structure. The CCCP said that Chinese are "encouraged and supported" to move to Tibet, and that they will offer "preferential conditions" to attract more Chinese to the remote plateau. This lends support to a leaked report of an earlier top secret meeting held in Chengdu on 12 May 1993 at which it was decided that to meet the growing political resistance in Tibet, China should intensify its population transfer policy.

Prior to this such policy statements only appeared in provincial and lower level regulations. Before 1994 the Chinese had always denied that there was any policy of moving Chinese to Tibet. A review of Chinese history provides evidence that refutes such claims. The first public indication of Chinese population transfer to Tibet came as early as 1952 in the Directive of the Central Committee of the CPC on Policies for Work in Tibet issued by Mao Zedong. Proposing a five-fold increase in the population of the western half of Tibet, later to be named the 'TAR', Mao said:

Tibet covers a large area but is thinly populated. Its population should be increased from the present two or three million to five or six million, and then to over 10 million (Tharpa 1968).

The 1956 "rustication" programme known as xiafang (downward transfer to the countryside) in its quest for industrialisation sought to transfer millions of people from the urban areas of eastern China to the remote and sparsely populated regions in the north and west of the PRC. In Tibet the rustication system created an alien economic system which had little connection with traditional practices and methods of production.

For example, between 1954 and the mid-1960s, there was a large-scale resettlement of Chinese into the Tibetan province of Amdo to provide labour for construction of state farms and reclaim land for agriculture. The 1956-67 Beijing draft of the National Programme for Agricultural Development stated: "Šwherever conditions permit, land reclamation should be carried out by organised new settlers". The demographic movement included peasants attracted by agricultural opportunities, compulsory relocated exiled cadres as well as prisoners and those sentenced to "reform through labour". Released prisoners were encouraged to have their families join them and thus became permanent residents. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese settled in Amdo during this period, including 200,000 in Siling (Xining) its capital.

According to Chinese sources, by 1984 Amdo had a population of 3.8 million, of which more than 2.5 million were Chinese and only 750,000 were Tibetan. Less than one year later, the total population had increased by almost 150,000, while the number of Tibetans remained the same (ICLT 1992). The resulting urbanisation may be seen as a precursor to the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping's regime in the 1980s.

At the 1984 Second National Forum on Work in Tibet, the initiative to reduce the number of Chinese in Tibet, as promised by the Communist Party's then General Secretary Hu Yaobang in 1980, was effectively reversed. The movement of workers was facilitated under the guise of achieving "economic development" in Tibet through 43 development projects which were all contracted to provincial and municipal firms in the Chinese interior and employed Chinese personnel (Hessler 1999b). In 1984 and 1985 an estimated 60,000 Chinese workers associated with these "development" projects arrived in the 'TAR', primarily in Lhasa. All of the Chinese workers were on temporary contracts, but many eventually remained in the 'TAR' to pursue other economic opportunities (Tibet Daily 1994).

Under Deng's leadership the debilitating ideological and political campaigns of the Cultural Revolution were pushed aside in favour of economic reform. The "Four Modernisations" unleashed an economic fervour that swept the country. The four guiding principles were to include the:

  • Reform of agriculture
  • Reform of urban areas
  • Decentralisation of control over state-run enterprises
  • Reform of price structures to reflect the emerging market system (Grey 1995).

A statement by Deng on 29 June 1987, during a meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter, has been described as a "guiding principle" for Tibet policy:

Tibet is a region with a sparse population and has a vast expanse of land. More than two million compatriots of the Zang [Tibetan] nationality alone are not sufficient for construction. There is no harm for the Han [Chinese] people to go and help them. Some more Han [Chinese] people there will be conducive to the development of the local nationality economy. This is not a bad thing (Hessler 1999a).

Deng's 'Spring Tide' campaign which began in 1991 initiated programmes throughout China to "deepen" and "speed up" economic reform. In Tibet this was to be framed as an "open-door" policy designed to open up Tibet to foreign investment and workers.

The effects of Deng's 'Spring Tide' campaign were felt in Tibet in 1992 when Lhasa was made a "Special Economic Zone", leading to an increase in both skilled and unskilled Chinese moving to the 'TAR'. Official statements referred explicitly to increasing migration to Tibet. For instance, on 5 September 1992, Chen Lianchang, executive vice-minister of the Ministry of Personnel, stated:

All provinces, municipalities and other autonomous regions must unconditionally guarantee the supply of party and government cadres as well as specialised technicians needed by Tibet for its economic constructionŠ In addition, various methods must be adopted, such as drawing up preferential policies, to attract scientists, technologists and studentsŠ from the hinterland to work in Tibet.


Road-building Programme

Road-building policies in Tibet comprise two main elements: improving and upgrading existing roads and expanding the road network into the hitherto isolated countryside. These construction activities encourage population transfer. Road and rail construction in Gansu led to the emergence of a group of industrial cities along newly-created transport corridors. The Sichuan-Tibet Highway is one of about 20 transportation projects outlined in the 1998 list of 117 key state construction projects. The Sichuan route is a crucial one; it provides direct access to China's industrial heartland and is convenient to export resources from mineral-rich Eastern Tibet.

Relaxing Controls on Migration

Alongside these new economic policies which are encouraging migration to Tibet a number of administrative measures controlling the movement of the population were revoked from August 1992. The justification for this was that the existing system of checkpoints was an unnecessary restriction on the emerging free market system. "Unnecessary checkpoints and outposts" were abolished, and travel restrictions between the 'TAR' and neighbouring regions were eased. Thus, by the end of 1992 economic and administrative reforms in Tibet had given people both the right to move around and access to an expanding road and rail network. Government policies favouring the rapid development of a free market system were an added impetus to population transfer. The significance of the earlier reform of the hukou (residence registration system) now became apparent. In the new relaxed atmosphere, traders from outside were able to move into and around Tibet without restriction. Since they were no longer dependent on the state for work, food, housing and other services, they were able to remain as long as their business was successful.

Freeing Up Private Enterprise

Having set up a framework within which population transfer could take place, the authorities then began to promote preferential policies to attract Chinese to Tibet and enable them to set up private enterprises in the country. Regulations governing the acquisition of business licences were relaxed and simplified in November 1993. Since then, licences have been available on provision of just an identification card and a letter of recommendation from the appropriate authorities. Official Chinese media has reported a huge increase in the number of individual and private enterprises in the region.

A substantial proportion of enterprises registered in the 'TAR' are run by Chinese, and official sources recognised that more than 25 per cent of new industrial and commercial enterprises set up in the 'TAR' in 1991 came from outside the region. In one monitored estimate of small business ownership in Lhasa, it was revealed that, from 1991 to 1992, of a total of 31,493 business establishments only 5,706, or less than 20 per cent, were owned by Tibetans. Field research by Tibet Support Group-UK in Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law (ICJ 1997) reveals that 756 of 1,061 individual businesses in old Lhasa's main market-hall were Chinese, as were 1,357 of 1,458 salespersons in Lhasa's vegetable markets. The same TSG-UK report says that the same situation is occurring in other towns around the 'TAR'. Of the 397 businesses in the centre of Tsethang, 277 are owned by Chinese. Of significance is the fact that little evidence of permanent Chinese settlement in the surrounding rural areas was found.

In addition to measures promoting the retail trade in Tibet, and between Tibet and neighbouring Chinese provinces, the government has also begun to develop a framework for increasing international trade through Tibet. Thus, reform of the retail trade and service sector combined with the active promotion of international trade have encouraged migration into Tibet, with Chinese and Chinese Muslim entrepreneurs quick to take advantage of the preferential policies.

A Swathe of Incentives

There are a series of benefits made available to "skilled personnel" and "technical experts" working in Tibet. Most of these are of a financial nature:

  • Higher wages (Chinese migrant earnings are 87 per cent higher in Tibet than in China)
  • Hardship allowances for people living in a remote mountainous region
  • Reduction of, or exemptions from, taxation
  • Improved pension opportunities.

This is confirmed in China's Cadre Transfer Policy Toward Tibet in the 1980s by Huang who quotes Tibet as being in the highest "salary zone" where income supplements for cadres in Tibet can be as high as 71.82 per cent of the original salary. A Chinese engineer agreed to relocate to Tibet because he was unemployed and would receive more than double the pay he was earning in Beijing (ICJ 1997). Such financial benefits are further increased should Chinese employees elect to remain in Tibet beyond their contracted term of service. Also significant are a series of social benefits. Chinese cadres and staff living in the 'TAR' are eligible for better housing, enhanced access to education and medical facilities and longer periods of leave. For every 18 months of work in Tibet, Chinese employees are awarded a three-month leave package including pre-paid travel arranged by the government.

In relation to housing, there are strong indications, as cited in (Leckie 1994) Destruction by Design, Housing Rights Violations in Tibet, that official Chinese migrants are guaranteed accommodation as a matter of policy upon arrival in Tibet, something increasingly hard to obtain in China. Such housing assurances are not known to be in place elsewhere under Chinese jurisdiction. In Kandze in Kham, preferential birth control regulations allow Chinese farmers who have lived in a "high, cold and remote mountainous area" in the region for more than eight years to have two children rather than the mandatory one.


The United Nations General Assembly has on three occasions passed resolutions condemning the PRC's record in Tibet. In 1959 the UN called for "respect for the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people and for their distinctive cultural and religious life". In 1961 and 1965 the Assembly again lamented "the suppression of the distinctive cultural and religious life" of the Tibetan people. In 1991 the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the UN Commission on Human Rights was: "[c]oncerned at the continuing reports of violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms which threaten the distinct cultural, religious and national identity of the Tibetan people".

Social Isolation by Marginalisation

In his "70,000 Character Petition," written some 36 years ago, the 10th Panchen Lama already voiced concern about the possible loss of the Tibetan culture:

... once a nationality's language, costume, customs and other important characteristics have disappeared, then the nationality itself has disappeared too - that is to say, it has turned into another nationality (TIN 1997c).

Marginalisation shows itself in a number of ways: people are disadvantaged in a system that is alien to them. Depending upon their formulation and implementation, education, welfare and health policies can all contribute to social isolation. There is sufficient evidence to show that Chinese policies in Tibet favour the growing Chinese population and, this encourage further migration of Chinese into the region.

Politics Over Education

Chinese rhetoric on education invariably refers to Chinese education as the path towards modernity and socio-economic progress:

The results [of Chinese education policies] helped free the [Tibetan] people from ignorant and backward conditions created by serfdom, and enabled them to walk along the glorious path of modern civilisation.

The education system is seen by many as an instrument of sinocization. Chinese educational policies minimise Tibetan language, Tibetan culture and Tibetan history. Chinese law demands Mandarin as the medium of teaching in all secondary schools with a few limited exceptions. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, noted during a visit to a school in Lhasa in 1999 that the children were reading a Chinese language storybook. When she asked the Chinese authorities about this, she was told that there were "no good story books in Tibetan".

Beijing's educational policies in Tibet have gone through a series of changes. After the Cultural Revolution, during which manifestations of Tibetan cultural traditions were virtually outlawed, Tibetan language education underwent a revival. This revival was mainly a result of Chinese concessions to the late Panchen Lama, who continuously promoted the Tibetan language as the language of education and administration. Since the late Panchen Lama's premature death in 1989, the political mood has changed considerably.

Chinese rhetoric on education in Tibet reflects a return to the primacy of politics over education standards. Most of the measures promoting the Tibetan language have now been reversed. Four Tibetan language secondary school classes, initiated by the late Panchen Lama in 1989 in three schools in Central Tibet, have now been dissolved, even though they were extremely popular and successful. As most Tibetan children attend Tibetan language primary schools, they score well below national averages at Chinese language secondary schools and so inevitably, the dropout rate among Tibetan students is high.

At the same time, the system is geared toward the urban population. Well-equipped schools established by the Chinese government are to be found in Tibetan cities and county headquarters with a predominantly Chinese populace. Local schools administered by Tibetans are desperately short of resources, frequently without furniture or trained teachers. Thus the vast majority of Tibetans have no access to adequate schooling or are unable to attend due to prohibitively high admission fees.

The implication of China's population transfer is also profound for the preservation of Tibetans' strong religious traditions, language and customs. As they become increasingly marginalised in their own country, the role of education becomes vital to the future of the Tibetan people.

Marginalisation is built into the system. Many Tibetan students enter secondary school with no background knowledge of Chinese language. As a result of this language handicap, Tibetan students are often grouped into "lower stream" classes and assigned inferior facilities with less qualified teachers. Statistics suggest that approximately 33 per cent of school age children in Tibet continue to receive no education at all (Amnesty International 1995), compared with just 1.5 per cent of Chinese children (TCHRD 1997d). China often argues that physical remoteness is the cause of low education standards among Tibetan children. But in reality it is the high school fees which act as a barrier to Tibetan school admissions. This is exacerbated by general discrimination by authorities towards Tibetan students. Many bright Tibetan children are keen to go to China for further studies, citing the low level of education in Tibet as the reason.

In 1995, China's official news agency Xinhua reported that 13,000 Tibetans had enrolled in educational institutes in China since 1985, and that 10,000 Tibetans are currently enrolled, representing 28 per cent of all Tibetans in secondary education. This policy of sending Tibetan students to China rather than sending teachers to Tibet or training teachers in Tibet results in a number of negative effects including loss of language and cultural identity, problems of family relations and reduced funding for education in Tibet. Under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, education should include teaching a child respect for his or her own cultural identity, language and values. Yet Chinese authorities have for some time linked Tibetan language to Tibetan nationalism and thus to a propensity for "splittist" activities.

By repressing the use of Tibetan language and the knowledge of Tibetan culture and history it seems China hopes to completely integrate the next generation of Tibetans into China. This even extends to the policy of recalling Tibetan children who are currently in India for education. A report by Tibet Information Network suggests a further strengthening of China's already hard-line policies aimed at eradicating support among Tibetans for the Dalai Lama. This new campaign has led to the homes of Tibetan officials in Lhasa being searched for shrines and religious objects and a renewal of the requirement for Tibetan cadres to withdraw their children from exile schools in India.

The withdrawal of these children was first ordered in 1994; the latest ban threatens workers whose children are still in schools in India with expulsion from their jobs if the children are not brought back to Tibet. One such incident reported by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (1999) states that in March 1998 the head of Lhasa Middle School asked three parents to bring their children back from India to attend school in Tibet within six months:

The parents were unable to travel immediately due to the difficulty in obtaining travel documents quickly and arriving in India during the hot weather. Six months later, in September, they were asked by the school authorities to explain why they had not been to India to collect their children... and were suspended from their work until they complied with the order.

Employment Excludes Tibetans

As a signatory nation, the Chinese authorities under Article 5(e)(i) of the UN International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) State Parties undertake to guarantee the right of everyone, without racial discrimination, to equal enjoyment of:

The right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favourable remuneration.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that the latest campaign against the Dalai Lama is using the threat of unemployment against "non-compliant" Tibetans. A report by the Tibet Information Network dated 13 November 1998 states that "Šif cadres are found in possession of altars or pictures of the Dalai Lama they will be regarded as having voluntarily resigned from their work units" (TIN 1997c).

The International Commission of Jurists (1997) contends that China has been unable to industrialise the processing of the agricultural commodities of Tibet, or to provide industrial employment for rural Tibetans. Despite massive Chinese State investment in infrastructure, very little has resulted in viable enterprises which employ Tibetans. Chinese investment has concentrated on state-owned enterprises in urban areas, which are largely reserved for Chinese employees. Only 2.5 per cent of rural Tibetans in 'TAR' are employed outside the traditional Tibetan agricultural economy.

Chinese authorities admit that a disproportionate number of public officers in Tibet are Chinese. At the private level, Chinese are also likely to make up a considerable proportion of company employees. In the private trading and natural resources Jinzhu Group - a spin-off of the Government's export-import agency - only 60 per cent of its 400 employees are Tibetan.

In 1997 the PRC issued a "White Paper" on its human rights in which it claimed to attach major importance to the protection of workers' rights. This report admits that while a minimum wage has been introduced in China this has yet to be implemented in the 'TAR'. There is further evidence to suggest that workers rights are seriously violated within the 'TAR' through the use of compulsory and unpaid labour. It is reported that in Lhoka County, (in Yartoe and Yarlung) each resident is forced to "offer" his services for between eight and 12 days per month for nine months of every year. If workers do not appear for the unpaid work, they are fined. In this situation the term "resident" includes monks and nuns.

In an editorial dated 16 October 1997 on the Chinese economy, the Kazakh-based Uighur émigré newspaper Golos Vostochnogo Turkistana reported:

Like any dictatorship, the Chinese Communist dictatorship uses gratis forced labour in its planned economy. For example, in Xinjiang in the 1980s-1990s the peasants of the Autonomous Region performed 36 million units of forced labour (each unit being from three days to three months forced labour). China reaps an enormous profit from the exploitation of the public, which continues to this day. The deaths of many thousands of peasants from 12-15 hour stints of forced labour in the deserts and mountain regions are not widely advertised.

Tibetans are clearly at a considerable disadvantage both ideologically and financially in the economic sphere in Tibet. They face increased competition in the job market and in the agricultural sector. Their traditional skills and experience are generally undervalued and undermined. International lawyer Michael C. van Walt van Praag cites a case where 30,000 Tibetans employed under 16 labour units of Lhasa Municipality lost their jobs to Chinese workers. The Tibetans were simply told to go to the villages to look for work.

When official reference is made to the role of Tibetans within the economy it is generally in negative terms. The Tibet Daily on 15 December 1997 stated: One of the most important reasons why Tibet lags behind the rest of China in development is because Tibet has not shaped a social environment favourable for development, and has not correctly solved problems existing in the spiritual sphere.

Poverty's Growing Gulf

It may be argued that China's strategy for poverty alleviation is economic growth rather than programmes specifically targeting the poor. The Australian Agency for International Development concludes from its work with the Chinese poverty alleviation system in Amdo:

This approach to poverty alleviation places emphasis on activities that are project oriented in nature and not necessarily on the participation of the poor in identifying and developing solutions to their poverty. It also places emphasis on large enterprise activities and does not target poor households (Lafitte 1999).

There is ample evidence of the growing income disparity between urban Chinese and rural Tibetans in the 'TAR'. The 1997 Policy Paper for the 'TAR' reported that in 1996 urban incomes rose by over 25 per cent to reach US$628 per person. This makes residents of Lhasa wealthier on average than town dwellers in China, where the average income for 1996 was only US$537.

Urban incomes are now over five times the size of rural incomes, and growing at twice the rate. Rural incomes increased by 11 per cent in 1996 but still reached only US$121 per person, half the average rural income in China. A strong indication of the rapidly growing gulf between the Chinese and Tibetans. The World Bank defines poverty as an income of less than US$1 per day, using purchasing power parity ‹ in other words, exchange rates adjusted to local currency.

Poverty can also be defined in broader terms than by income alone. The Human Poverty Index, developed recently by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), defines poverty as an aggregate index that measures other forms of deprivation, including low life expectancy, illiteracy, and measures of access to health services, safe water and adequate nutrition. Figures available from The World Resources (1999) state that in China, for the period 1990-1996, only seven per cent of the rural population had access to adequate sanitation and 56 per cent to safe drinking water.

On 26 November 1994 local officials reported in Xinhua that 20 per cent of the total population in Tibet, "the poorest region in China", was living below the poverty line. The Tenth Five Year Plan for Economic and Social Development in its long term target for 2010 for the 'TAR' acknowledges that many Tibetans live below the poverty line and attributes this to inherent backwardness and remoteness. China, however, defines poverty as an income of US60 cents a day. The 1997 report by the International Commission of Jurists suggests that if international measures of poverty are applied, the number of poor in the 'TAR' rises from China's figure of 20.7 per cent to over 70 per cent.

Furthermore, the Chinese government often violates original inhabitants' right to an adequate standard of living by restricting their freedom of movement. For example, the level of affluence of pastoral nomads, historically higher than agriculturists, is dependent upon their ability to move freely to the best pastures. In a desire to increase output, the Chinese have divided pastoral lands into agricultural plots, increasing pressure on nomads to settle in one place. In this case the future of the pastoral economy, the nomads' way of life, and ultimately, self-determination, rests with the Chinese.



Fears of a national grain shortage have led the Chinese authorities to promote agriculture in Tibet to feed an ever-growing Chinese population. In Tibet these strategies have one of two forms:

  • Boosting yields on existing farmland through mechanisation and chemical fertilisers
  • Increasing the area of land under cultivation.

Both of these actions have grave consequences. The first in terms of possible environmental damage to fragile soils and ecosystems and the second in its impact on traditional land use patterns, particularly in regard to conversion of pasture lands to cropping farms.

The Panam project is part of the comprehensive "One River Two Streams" agricultural programme which was developed with a long-term economic focus of introducing a market economy into Tibet. The aim of the Panam project is to increase grain production in the allocated 1,001 sq. km area by installing a complete irrigation system, but the EU has since amended the plan to provide for education, afforestation, health and sanitation initiatives. There are concerns that these secondary aspects will be all but forgotten in practice. The Panam Integrated Rural Development Project was again approved in 1998 despite the controversy surrounding the project. In August 1998 the European Union (EU) granted China ECU 7.6 million aid for the programme and the remaining ECU 14.2 million was to be borne by China (TSG 1995).

The project is being implemented in an area that already possesses a basic infrastructure with a subsistence economy and is self-sufficient in food, rather than in one of the many poorer areas in Central Tibet that could benefit more from such a scheme. It promises to introduce a full market economy into the area and this threatens the livelihood of many of the locals. It appears that the project was conceived not for the benefit of Tibetans but to reduce the grain deficit and resulting economic strain induced by the influx of Chinese into Panam and surrounding areas.

The project aims to increase grain production by 78 per cent with the majority of this being accounted for by wheat. 1991 statistics indicate a wheat consumption rate of 10 per cent in Panam County, which suggests that the programme is not designed for the benefit of the local population but to create stability for the new, Chinese population (TSG 1995).

The stated long-term objective of the Panam project is "to establish a viable model for self-help development activities which can be replicated in other parts of Tibet". If this mode of large-scale development continues, the accompanying transfer of the Chinese population into Tibetan regions seriously jeopardises the survival of the Tibetan people.

If the similar UN World Food Program (WFP) #3357 is any indication of the outcome, Tibetans will have minimal input into the project. The UN WFP was essentially discredited "due to the lack of technical co-operation with unethical behaviour from the Chinese authorities".

In an interview, Jamyang Thargay is less than complimentary about the project. As the former accountant of Taktse Work Group, (WFP #3357), he had first-hand experience of the project. While the Chinese claim to have offered comprehensive training, Jamyang states that Tibetans were employed in menial tasks such as hauling boulders and clearing land - in other words, they were used as a source of cheap, unskilled labour. The WFP provides for a minimum wage of six to eight yuan per day but "Tibetans get less than five yuan per day" (DIIR 1997a).

Jamyang's Taktse Work Group of 40, of which the leader was Chinese, consisted of 30 Chinese and only 10 Tibetans. He cites examples of Chinese Muslims who bribe Chinese project officials to get good jobs on the project. He further adds that Tibetans who participated in the project did not receive the allocated ration of 1.925 kg of wheat flour nor the 45 grams of butter oil sanctioned by the WFP. Chinese officials are reported to sell such items in the markets of Lhasa (DIIR, 1997a). Forestry

As population pressures increase so do the pressures on land. Deforestation is a result of urbanisation and commodification. As new roads are constructed to bring in new settlers and military personnel, the rate of deforestation increases.

In its simplest form, trees are felled as land is cleared to support increased Chinese workers and the construction of worker compounds. As these areas become urbanised, more land needs to be cleared to support agriculture. And so the cycle continues.

Although a substantial reduction in forest cover has occurred due to new population pressures and consequently a substantial increase in firewood gathering, and the clearing of forests for grazing and cultivation, it is the planned commercial timber extraction that is mostly responsible for the 46 per cent reduction in forest cover on the Tibetan Plateau (DIIR 1998).

Since the modern world made its way into the Tibetan Plateau via Chinese modernisation the forests have been reduced nearly by half (Winkler 1998a).

According to Yang and He, the rate of destruction is by various estimates three to four times faster than the forests can regrow, a practice that results in a renewable resource becoming non-renewable. Vaclav Smil terms this extraction the "planned destruction" of the portion of Tibet annexed to Sichuan Given that China's development strategy in Tibet also serves to alleviate population and employment pressure elsewhere in China many jobs are created for Chinese workers in factories and projects in Tibet. According to He Bochuan, in China on the Edge, the greatest single threat to the Chinese nation is population growth. Because over two-thirds of the population is under 30, creating employment opportunities is the first priority of government policy. Chinese officials at the Forestry Bureau in Trango, Kham, for example, candidly admitted to a fact-finding team in 1991 that the Forestry Bureau only serves Chinese settlers, providing them with 1,100 jobs, including housing, meals, laundry and long vacations. And paid transport back to their hometowns (ICT 1991).


The Yamdrok Tso hydro-electric plant, located 120 km south of Lhasa, began in 1985 amid promises to "enhance development of industry, agriculture and animal husbandry". While mired in controversy ć the project was halted at one point after Tibetan officials, including the late Panchen Lama, vigorously opposed it ć of significance are the 4,000-5,000 Chinese military personnel brought in to build the hydropower plant. This is indicative of many Chinese infrastructure projects: Tibetan involvement is either zero or minimal.


With regard to mineral resources, evidence from the unpublished 'TAR' Specialist Plan and other official sources indicate that China is planning to develop mining as one of the five pillars of economic development in Tibet. Figures given for the Specialist Plan suggest that potential output is seen as an inseparable component of China's own mineral availability. Xinhua (1997c) reported that potential oilfields in the Chang Thang plateau in northern Tibet comprised the "last and largest oil belt" in the inland area.

Advanced preparations for full-scale development of a large copper-mine in Chamdo, the Yulong copper mine, were also announced. Executive vice chairman of the 'TAR' Yang Chuangtang has said that there are plans for this mine to be one of the biggest in Asia.

In April 1996, it was reported that some 500,000 ethnic Chinese were to be moved into Tibet to work on copper mines and that the Beijing authorities planned to build several mining towns to house about 100,000 migrant workers (DIIR 1997b). In the same month, 2,000 Chinese were sent to the Chang Thang Basin area where a "Geological Prospecting Team" is being led by Zhao Huan, chief engineer with the Geophysical Bureau of China National Petroleum and Natural Gas Corporation. Zhao and his team of workers have been exploring for oil and natural gas reserves since 1995. Over the past two years, China has sent many officials to Tibet under the pretext of surveying the progress of the various developmental projects initiated in Tibet, but according to sources in Tibet these officials seldom leave Tibet after their "survey" has been completed.

The prospect of gold has lured many to the region of Amdo. An estimated 80,000 licensed prospectors were in place at the beginning of the 1990s with many more applications to be processed. There are likely to be many more unlicensed gold prospectors. These miners are frequently outnumbering local Tibetan villagers. For example, in Chumarleb (Ch. Qumarleb) County 17,000 Tibetan herders are outnumbered by between 50,000 and 60,000 miners. Much of the mining activity is reportedly done in a haphazard way, causing destruction and waste.

TIN (1996) reported that in Shentsa County in Nagchu prefecture, the mining area is known to contain 10.1 tonnes of alluvial gold, forming one of the largest deposits in China. Local prospecting is encouraged. The term "wild mining" has developed, which reflects the fact that in many cases gold prospectors do not need a license. They are required to sell a certain ratio of their find to the government at a fixed low price.

Population Figures

There are a number of difficulties in assessing the true extent of Tibet's population. This is due to the extremely inaccessible terrain and general absence of fixed settlements such as nomadic communities which represent a sizeable proportion of the community. The Tibetan Government-in-Exile has estimated the Tibetan population inside Tibet at 6.1 million (DIIR 1992). This figure was reaffirmed in 1988 by Huan Xiang, Director of the Centre for International Studies of the State Council in Beijing, when the Beijing Review quoted him as saying:

Š of the present population of six million Tibetans, only two million are living in Tibet ('TAR') while the remaining four million are in other provinces of China.

In addition, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile has suggested that there are upwards of 7.6 million Chinese settlers in all Tibetan regions. In contrast, Chinese 1990 census figures from The Present Population of the Tibetan Nationality in China (Zhang & Zhang 1994) claim the total non-Tibetan population to be approximately 4.2 million and the total Tibetan population to be 4.59 million. With the impossibility of conducting a comprehensive, independent census in Tibet, it is extremely difficult to give any precise picture of its population profile. Difficulties are compounded by the manner in which China concocts its own statistics regarding Tibet, as exemplified above.


The military and civilian occupation of the Kham and Amdo regions (whose borders are contiguous with China's) occurred very early in the history of the occupation. Initially, following the invasion by the PLA in Tibet's easternmost border, the Chinese established military garrisons at every strategic point. During the 1950s, state-prompted migration policies brought the first civilians into Tibet, especially Kham and Amdo. Chinese settlers were sent to the Kham area and those from Gansu to Amdo. They were allotted plots of farming land by the Chinese authorities. Then road builders and workers came into the region to construct the network of highways that would permit the transportation of military supplies throughout Tibet. Government administrators and cadres began to arrive in significant numbers in the 1960s.


Today in most cities and towns in Amdo Tibetans are the minority. This is a claim supported by population statistics from both the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and China. As of 1990 Chinese outnumbered Tibetans by more than two-and-a-half times.


Given its fertile land and proximity to China, Kham was the first region to suffer mass migration from the earliest days of the Chinese occupation. Population figures are scant. But according to Chinese sources there are approximately 1.5 million Tibetans in Kham. This number is contested by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile which believes the number to be closer to three million. The Chinese statistics fail to include those Tibetans living in areas now incorporated into non-Tibetan prefectures, and has underestimated the nomadic population.

As much of Kham was incorporated into Sichuan, China's most populous province, it can safely be concluded that problems of overcrowding in Sichuan have been alleviated through population transfer. Some observers suggest that there is approximately a 1:1 ratio of Tibetans to Chinese, with the Chinese outnumbering Tibetans in urban areas.


The 'TAR' had, until recently, the lowest concentration of Chinese civilians in Tibet. Historic sources account for just 500 foreign traders in Lhasa before 1949, a figure that included Muslims, Nepalese and Chinese. It is to this region (and Lhasa in particular) that the Chinese are being encouraged to migrate. The announcement of an "open-door" policy in Tibet in June 1992 has led to significant changes in the last few years. This policy has encouraged Chinese settlers, opportunists, fortune seekers and vagrants to move to the area. A rising Chinese population needs, in turn, to be supported by government workers, cadres and craftspeople. A never-ending destructive cycle.

Chinese government sources give the Tibetan population of the 'TAR' as two million and the number of registered Chinese in 1990 as 81,200. But independent observers report that at least 100,000 Chinese live in Lhasa alone, outnumbering Tibetans two to one. In Tibet Transformed (ICT 1994), it is reported that Lhasa's total population is at least 200,000. Of this figure, the three security forces (People's Liberation Army, People's Armed Police, Public Security Bureau) are estimated at 50,000 to 60,000, approximately equal to the estimated number of Tibetans. In addition to Chinese security personnel, however, there are approximately 90,000 other Chinese. The report concludes that in Tibet's capital, the Tibetan people constitute only about one-third of the total population.


Following the invasion of Tibet, the Chinese realigned national boundaries redrawing and redefining regions and incorporating much of Tibet into neighbouring Chinese provinces. Today China refers to Tibet as the so-called 'Tibet Autonomous Region' ('TAR'). 'TAR' accounts for less than half of Tibet's territory prior to 1949 and corresponds roughly to the central Tibetan province of U-Tsang. A large proportion of Amdo, Tibet's northeastern province, is now administrated as Qinghai province, with parts of Amdo also falling into western Gansu and Sichuan provinces. Finally parts of Kham, Tibet's southeastern province, have been subsumed into the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. As a consequence, terminology and descriptions of what constitutes Tibet are confused and Chinese propaganda statements are deliberately vague and ambiguous. This serves the Chinese cause well. Even today, much of the world is unaware of what constitutes the nation of Tibet in precise historical and geopolitical terms.

Population Statistics

While statistical tables and comparisons between early estimates and population figures from the 1982, 1987, 1990 and 1995 censuses are interesting and provide an indication of general trends, Chinese figures and categorisations vary with political requirements and remain unreliable. In the early years of the PRC under-reporting of Tibet's population was caused by lack of competence and difficult physical conditions including insurgencies. The official figure of just over one million for the entire Tibetan population was unreasonable. Census figures in 1953 and 1964 for 'TAR' were still based on estimates. The intensely politicised atmosphere of the 1960s and 1970s made "correct" responses a factor of survival; general disorganisation made totals unverifiable. Precision in the early 1980s suffered from this legacy. Whilst the 1995 census was far more professional, political sensitivities would still seem to preclude full transparency. Data is no longer available that shows unbiased information such as Chinese backwardness (scant availability of modern services or equipment in poor areas) or tabulations on an ethnic basis (infant mortality by ethnic group) reveal neglect, deterioration of conditions or discrimination against minorities (Statistical Yearbook of China et al 1995).


The official view of the PRC is that all Chinese belong to a single ethnic group, overlooking the considerable differences, linguistic and otherwise, that exist between Cantonese, Fujianese and, northern and inland Chinese to name but a few. There is a marked emphasis on the high number and diversity of the PRC's 55 minorities. The former Republican government under Chiang Kai-shek identified only five ethnic groups ‹ the Manchu, Mongolians, Muslims, Tibetans and Chinese. The passage from five to 55 was achieved through official creation and re-definition of "nationalities". The Hui (8.6 million) were formerly included among the Muslims(TIN 1998d). Their identity as a people was a Maoist creation: the term Hui and its variants formerly applied to any Chinese Muslim. In Amdo many Hui consider themselves Tibetan Hui or "Bo Hui" and call others "Gya Hui" or Chinese Hui. This is also reported in the 'TAR', but the sub-categories are not given official recognition.

Some of the "nationalities" have emerged by subdividing larger groups. Among the people formerly not considered different from Tibetans, the Tu (191,000) who live mainly in Haidung and in Gansu, were mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Among Tibet's renowned spiritual teachers of the past, some would now have to be classified as non-Tibetan Tu. Nor were the Qiang (198,000) formerly seen as different. The Moinba (7,500) and Lhoba (2,000) are very close politically and culturally and many of the Naxis (278,000) belong to the Bon, Tibet's pre-Buddhist belief-system; the rest are Buddhist. Taken together, these 700,000 non-Chinese, residing on Tibetan territory would arguably constitute additional users of Tibetan-language schools, Buddhist temples and other non-Chinese cultural institutions (ICJ 1997).

Official Exclusions

Military personnel, civilians working in military establishments, technical and professional staff brought in under official projects, workers registered elsewhere and who have resided in a place for less than a year, and those who entered Tibet before 1 July 1985 are not included in official figures. Additionally, neither are Chinese born in Tibet included, nor are dependants of Chinese workers. A recent addition to the exclusion list has been the self-employed. Official sentiment labels the "self-employed" as "seasonal migrators". A census that excludes so many people raises serious questions about legitimacy and credibility. By way of further example, in the second half of the 1970s Chinese workers employed within the leather industry were categorised under the heading of "military personnel" and so excluded from the official count.

Military Personnel

Despite the easing of Sino-Indian tensions and the signing of an agreement to reduce troops along the Indo-Tibetan border, China's security presence in Tibet has increased in recent years. Construction and modernisation of military and para-military facilities in both urban and rural areas have escalated. The report Tibet Transformed (ICT 1994) makes reference to Chinese area planning maps for Lhasa that show a number of sites designated as "special use" zones. Visual inspection of these sites, supported by photographic evidence, reveals that they are PLA bases, PAP camps, or other security facilities including prisons and other detention centres. The report adds that estimates for military personnel in the 'TAR' alone have reached up to 400,000.

The exact number of security personnel for all Tibetan regions ebbs and flows depending upon the perceived needs of the authorities. While there is some indication that the number of PLA personnel in Tibet may be decreasing following the trend in China, as Beijing downsizes its total military forces, eyewitnesses consistently report that the number of PAP personnel in Tibet is steadily increasing. The report quotes a knowledgeable source:

PAP arrive by plane from Chengdu in greater numbers than those leaving. There are far too many regular troop rotations. Their trucks, sedans and Land Cruisers, often marked with a "WJ" on the license plate, are everywhere in Lhasa. Every important town or city has a PAP garrison now. Smaller PAP units are now being established in many of the towns. Tibetans understand clearly why they are there. The PAP is taking over where the PLA left off.

Seasonal Migrators - Floating Population

Population numbers are further escalated with the introduction of a "floating population" from among several million unskilled and semi-skilled Chinese now drifting from rural areas to cities and towns in search of work throughout China. The mechanisation of agriculture and general industrialisation has made many workers surplus to requirements in China. Many such people are enticed to Tibet by higher salaries. The Chinese authorities now appear to accept that widespread migration is an unavoidable consequence of economic reform. However, the general intention of the Chinese government is to prevent large numbers of migrant workers from settling in urban areas. As a result, the floating population is encouraged to move to the northern and western regions. In large cities like Beijing or Shanghai, migration is perceived as a grave social and economic problem and measures to limit the influx of the floating population have been introduced. In Tibet, migration by Chinese into the region is encouraged and welcomed under the pretext of enabling "economic development". With the prospect of unemployment spiralling in China the future does not bode well for Tibet.


If the present Chinese policy is successfully implemented, Tibetans will, before long, be reduced to a small and insignificant minority in their own country. This has been the case of the Turkic peoples of Eastern Turkestan and the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia. In Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) the Chinese population has grown from 200,000 in 1947 to six million in 1993, surpassing the five million native Uighurs (The New York Times 1985). A comment made by Deng Xiaoping in 1993 on the subject of problems in Eastern Turkestan is a portent of things to come in Tibet. Referring to the "splittist" activities of the Uighurs, Deng noted "It is fortunate that in the past 40 years we have made population proportions such that splittists can't really do much".

In the wake of the Chinese colonisation of Inner Mongolia, Chinese now outnumber the Mongols by 25 million to 2.5 million in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (AFP 1992). In a call to the United Nations for support, the Inner Mongolian People's Party (IMPP) condemned the PRC's policy of forcible assimilation of the Mongol population of Inner Mongolia by suppression and destruction of the Mongolian language and culture. A representative of the IMPP reported to the UN in 1998 that:

The People's Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have carried out a policy of genocide against the Southern Mongolian Nation. In the course of 50 years of Chinese occupation, over 1,000,000 Mongols have been killed by the CCP, and more than 800,000 Mongols have been imprisoned and tortured. Today, in 1998, the Chinese Government and the CCP continue their policy of annihilating the ethnic identity of the Southern Mongolians. They have used unspeakable kinds of torture to intimidate the Southern Mongolians. They have beaten, burned and maimed our people, and abused our women.

A third example may be seen in Manchuria where three million Manchus have been reduced to an insignificant minority; they are outnumbered by 75 million Chinese (AFP 1992). Such overwhelming numbers have led to the cultural, social and economic decimation of these peoples.

Orchestrated social ostracism, eviction and denial of housing, school admission or employment; expulsion from school or work unit, culminating in official investigation and detention with withdrawal of political rights have been, and remain, the fate of Tibetans who openly criticise or oppose the government. Tibetans have a distinct history, language, culture and traditions. Despite 50 years of occupation, the Tibetan people refuse to be conquered and subjugated by China.


[Source: Used with permission from Environment and Development Desk. Department of Information and International Relations; Central Tibetan Administration; Dharamsala, India.]

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